Bob is a truck driver. I sat at the Lucky Longhorn Casino Bar and watched as he swallowed a double-bacon-cheeseburger, leveled the large fries and salad and showed no pity for the behemoth slice of pie that landed in front of him. He washed it down with not one but two, large pitchers of beer and three shots of southern comfort. He followed that up with a trip to the slot machine and a failed attempt at flirting with a trucker lady.
That was last night. This morning he’s sitting next to me in the truck-stop diner loading up on biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and a tall stack of pancakes that he mercilessly covered with a stick of butter and drowned in imitation maple syrup. And his wife thinks he’s out here on the road, working.
High Island is located on the Bolivar Peninsula, a really small town that attracts bird watchers from all over the world. I left after reading the forecast, a high of eighty nine degrees and the humidity level would cause it to be steamier than a scene from Dirty Dancing.
The road is flat and the wind is blowing in the right direction. I’m pedaling through a wild life preserve as I begin heading north, then east, crossing over several high bridges. It’s twenty miles between towns. I carry just enough water and granola bars to get me to the next stop.
Most of the time, Jo is content, laying in his shaded wagon behind me. On occasion he’ll stand up and poke his head out so he can have a better view of his surroundings, keeping his eyes on the cars as they come up from behind. Jo likes to let out one or two good barks every time one whizzes by. I use to tell him, “no singing” every time he barked, but now I encourage him, “sing Jo”. I realized that Shoeless Jo is just being a dog, having fun the best way that he knows how as we make our way on this great adventure.
When I roll into Port Arthur, it’s hot and humid. I had already covered fifty miles, stopping at a gas station to re-fuel. I microwaved one of those delicious ham and cheese sandwiches and took a seat outside on the concrete, leaning against the wall. Several people wander over and ask me how far I’m riding and why. Then a woman hops out of her car and hands me a dollar bill with a smile, saying, “I want to buy you something cold to drink”. There are angels everywhere.
It was four thirty, the heat index reaching its peak. And I was reaching my limit, taking shelter under the shade of a highway overpass. I leaned my bike against the guardrail and lowered myself onto the asphalt, laying against Jo’s wagon. I must have dozed off after closing my eyes because I didn’t hear the car horn honking at first. A woman stopped beside me, rolling down her window, asking me if I was okay. I responded that I was just resting. I guess it’s not everyday that you see a man laying down on the freeway taking a nap. I see her as being another Angel checking up on me.
I stop at the McDonald’s in Bridge City. I’m sweatier than a ball player during playoffs when I step up to the register and order an ice cold Mocha Frapacino. Frenchie calls me as I’m standing there cooling off. The last time I saw him was in Arizona with Rachel and Olive. We talk every couple of days about the progress we’re making. Since he’s ahead of us, he shares with me places he’s stopped that he thinks I might enjoy. At 58 years old, Frenchie is fast. He plans on finishing his ride this coming Monday in St Augustine on the beach.
It’s 6:30, I decide to ride nine more miles to the next town, Orange. Once I arrive, I park my bike on a boardwalk overlooking the water, sitting there for a few minutes doing hotel and campground research from my iPhone. The only hotels in the area are overpriced and there’s not a single campsite around. Google tells me that another eight miles up the road I’ll find a truck stop with a hotel and casino.
I merge onto Interstate 10 for the final push. It was after dark now and the traffic was heavy. I puckered up and scooted across a bridge with a dangerously narrow shoulder. I let out a shriek about half way across as a trucker blew by me. He was just three feet from my left elbow doing 70 mph, a situation that could be deadly if either one of us made the wrong move.
The days ride was just a tad under eighty (s)miles. Before it was over, I reached another milestone, exciting the Angel occupied state of Texas, crossing over into Louisiana, a state whose outline on the map looks like Santa’s boot.
Despite the fact that my No-Tel truck stop accommodations had a bed that had been slept in and the towels were piled up on the bathroom floor, I’m lovin it here.